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Moving to Ireland

A comprehensive guide to moving to Ireland

Despite the economic problems of the last decade, Ireland is still a popular expat destination. Now that the “Celtic Tiger” seems to be reemerging, many are attracted by the growing IT industry among other things. Our guide on moving to Ireland gives you an insight into destinations, visas, and more.

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Relocating to Ireland

  • Most expats move to Dublin, but there are other popular communities such as Cork.
  • The ICT industry continues to be strong in Ireland, with many headquarters across the country.
  • There are a number of different visas and employment permits available for Ireland.

For expats moving to Ireland, the first thing to recognize about this renowned country, whose reputation and influence extend much beyond its diminutive size, is that the island is technically home to two nations. The Republic of Ireland, consisting of twenty-six of the island’s thirty-two counties, resides in the South. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, is comprised of the remaining six counties and a part of Great Britain, although it is important to note that it does have its own devolved government. However, when people speak of Ireland, whether they are aware of the political milieu or not, they will generally be referring to the Republic. 

A Brief History

After moving to Ireland, you will quickly become acquainted with its long and well documented history, stretching back to the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age, of which its people are extremely proud. Although modern Ireland is recognized and celebrated as an extremely globalized country, the belief that it was previously isolated and inward-looking from the rest of the world is a misconception. Irish history, from the ancient period to the contemporary, is one that is characterized by trade with the international community. This is attested to by the fact that archaeologists uncovered the skull of a Barbary ape, dating back to the Iron Age, in County Armagh, and a whales tooth from the Early Medieval period.

As you travel around Ireland, the sites and signs of its rich and enduring history can be seen throughout the country, and information can be found in museums and fun tours such as Viking Splash in Dublin city. However, the most profound examples of foreign influence upon the island are inarguably that of the British Empire. Ireland was under British reign for more than eight hundred years and as such, the remnants of colonialism are not only seen in the Georgian architecture that pervades the country’s cities but also in the political and economic structure.

After centuries of rebellion, the South of Ireland finally secured a de facto independence in 1922 and seceded from the British Common Wealth in 1937. We should probably warn those moving to Ireland that the British Empire and Northern Ireland can prove to be something of a touchy subject for those in the South!

Where to Go

Obviously, expats moving to Ireland will decide where to relocate to based on the work they have found. It is rather rare, but not unheard of, for expats to first arrive in Ireland and then look for employment. For further information on job hunting, please read our article on working in Ireland.

Large cities and centers of industry are obviously a haven for new expatriates moving to Ireland. We have listed some choice destinations for expats below.

Ireland’s Fair City: Dublin 

Dublin, the capital and largest city in Ireland, is the cultural and economic heart of the nation. There are about 1.8 million people living in the Greater Dublin area, which corresponds to about 40% of the total population. The number of new expats choosing to live in Ireland’s capital is, of course, substantial.

As the overwhelming majority of offers on online job portals are in Dublin, the lure of moving to Ireland’s unrivalled focal point is immense. Moreover, with transport focused upon the capital, it is an easy place to travel to and from. In fact, the city is such a prime destination that it prompted us to dedicate a whole series of articles to the city, beginning with our article on moving to Dublin.

The Rebel City: Cork

For those contemplating the move to Ireland’s second largest city and metropolitan area — with circa 120,000 residents in 2011 — Cork, is a great choice if you are looking for work in the industry sector. Located in the southwest of the country, it is the heart of the local industry, specifically of pharmaceutical companies and IT.

Global players such as Pfizer and Apple have subsidiaries and even European headquarters here, making the county a good option for expats working in these sectors. Other big names from ICT and healthcare located in or around Cork include Novartis, Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, and Logitech.

For people occupied in the oil industry, the southwest of the county might be of particular interest as it is home of Ireland’s only oil refinery and storage facility. Cork is also home to one of the country’s main airports, which should make moving to Ireland’s South a smooth and convenient matter.

Not Just a Type of Poem: Limerick

Limerick in Western Ireland is a major economic hub, mainly due to the importance of the Shannon Free Zone, Business and Technology Park. The attractive tax terms in this free trade zone prompted many international corporations to move to Ireland’s heartland to set up shop. Over 100 international and Irish businesses are located within the park. Its location adjacent to the third busiest airport in the country, Shannon Airport, makes moving to Ireland’s premier free trade zone a breeze.

Apart from the FTZ’s advantages for companies, Ireland’s third largest metropolitan area also proves attractive for many employees, both national and those just moving to Ireland, in key sectors like ICT, aviation, engineering, and medical care. Large employers include Cook Ireland (medical devices), Vistakon, and Dell, despite the shutdown of Dell’s local production site. 

A Thriving Coastal City: Galway

Or perhaps a smaller city is more attractive to you? Galway is a small, coastal city in the west of Ireland with a large student population and a growing market for start-up companies. According to the 2011 census, the city has a population of just under 76,000, meaning it can provide you with all the things you would expect from city-life, such as regular events and many opportunities to socialize, while also being quieter and more intimate than some of the bigger Irish cities. The many medieval streets are an added bonus.

The city has a good infrastructure and is less than two hours from Dublin along the motorway. There are two airports within an hour of Galway and many villages a short commute away if you would rather live away from the hustle of the city center and commute into work. Alongside the many start-ups in Galway, you will also find international companies in different sectors such as IT, medical technologies, and engineering. The city of Galway is also home to two universities, with one, The National University of Ireland Galway, being in the top 2% of universities in the world.

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Visa Requirements for Ireland

Varying Rules Depending on Your Nationality

Like most countries, Ireland has a number of different visas according to the length and purpose of your stay. If you are a citizen of the EEA or Switzerland, you will not need a visa to enter Ireland. Ireland also has a list of further countries whose nationals do not need a visa to enter the country; you can find this list, as well as other conditions in which you will not need a visa, on the Citizens Information visa page.

Nationals from a number of countries outside of the EEA do need a visa, however. Even if you are the dependent of an EU citizen, as a non-EEA national you may need a visa to enter Ireland if you do not hold the respective family member residence card.

Expats looking to move to Ireland will be most interested in the Long Stay Visas and Business Visas. However, you can find an overview of all visa types, as well as further information, on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service website.

Fees and How to Apply for Your Visa

It will most likely cost you between 60 and 100 EUR to apply for an Irish visa. You can find a list of the different visa fees on the INIS website. You will also find a list of persons who are exempt from visa fees on the same page.

You should apply for your visa online at least eight weeks before you plan to arrive in Ireland. The INIS also offers guides on how to apply for a visa in a variety of languages. Please note that if you are from a country that requires a visa to enter Ireland, this visa is also vital when it comes to receiving an employment permit.

Don’t Forget to Register Your Residence

Once you arrive in Ireland, unless you are an EEA or Swiss national, you must register with the local immigration authority if you will be staying in Ireland for longer than 90 days. To do this, you will need to go to the local Garda District Headquarters.

The immigration officer will stamp your passport with one of four stamps depending on your employment status and the duration of stay. You will also receive a Certificate of Registration, costing 300 EUR, which proves that you are legally resident in Ireland. You can find more information about the registration process on the Citizens Information website.

Work Permits for Ireland

Much like visas, there are a variety of different employment permits in Ireland depending on what you intend to do in the country and what you will earn. There are nine different types of employment permit, the most relevant being:

  • the General Employment Permit,
  • the Critical Skills Permit (former Green Card), and
  • the Dependent/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit.

If you are an EEA or Swiss national, you will not need an employment permit as you benefit from freedom of movement. Otherwise, you will most likely need to apply for an employment permit before coming to Ireland to work. Both the employee and the employer can apply for an employment permit and you need to hold an offer of employment before applying. You can find the required documents on the various permit application forms.

General Employment Permits

To be eligible for a general employment permit, you must usually have a minimum annual salary of 30,000 EUR. In some exceptional cases you may be granted a general employment permit with an annual salary of 27,000 EUR.

You must have the qualifications, skills, and experience required for the job. Meanwhile, your employer must be trading in Ireland, and be registered with Revenue and with the Companies Registration Office to be eligible for a General Employment Permit. Your application must include evidence that a labor market needs test has been carried out to ensure that no Irish, EEA, or Swiss national could be found for the vacancy. In certain circumstances, this requirement is waived; you can find these on the Citizens Information site. It is also important to remember that if your career is listed on the Ineligible Categories of Employment List, then you will not be able to apply for an employment permit.

Your General Employment Permit will be issued for two years and upon renewal you will be issued one that lasts for three years. After five years of possessing a work permit, you may no longer need one as you can apply for long-term residence and exemption from the requirement to hold an employment permit.

The permit costs between 500 and 1,000 EUR depending on its length and you will be expected to remain with your new employer for at least twelve months. After this first year, you may be able to bring your family to live with you in Ireland but they will not be eligible for a Dependent/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit.

If you need to apply, you can find information about waiting times and make a status inquiry through the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Critical Skills Employment Permit

Formerly the Green Card, the Critical Skills Employment Permits are handed out by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. You may be eligible for this permit if you earn more than 60,000 EUR per year or if your job is on the Highly Skilled Occupations List and you earn more than 30,000 EUR per year. As with the General Employment Permit, there are certain jobs which are not eligible.

Your job offer must be for two or more years and you must hold the relevant qualifications as specified by the permit application form. The permit is issued for two years, after which you can apply for a Stamp Four permission to live and work in Ireland without an employment permit. Unlike with the General Employment Permit, you may apply for your family to join you in Ireland straight away and no labor market needs test is required.

Dependent/Partner/Spouse Employment Permits

Spouses, recognized partners, civil partners, and dependents of researchers and holders of Critical Skills Employment Permits and former Green Card permits are eligible for this permit. You must, however, be legally resident in Ireland to apply for this permit. Unlike the other mentioned permits, you can earn less than 30,000 EUR per year as long as you are paid at least the National Minimum Wage.

These permits are normally issued for the period up to the expiry date of the registration card of the employment permit holder. You can then renew it afterwards. There is no fee for this permit but you do need to remember to re-register to obtain permission to remain in Ireland as an employee.

You can find more information about every type of employment permit on the Citizens Information employment permits page.

Whether you are moving abroad for the first time or relocated multiple times before, the process raises many questions. Our complete guide to relocation will ease your doubts along the way, from the initial preparations to how to negotiate a relocation package, we help you GO! prepared with the key answers.

Updated on: December 06, 2018

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